The vast majority of Canadians consume alcohol in moderation. There is also growing evidence that beer, when consumed responsibly and appropriately can be part of a healthy lifestyle. For more than three decades, the Canadian brewing industry has strived to promote responsible consumption and reduce the harmful use of alcohol through the development of educational campaigns and targeted programs, and through partnerships with key health, alcohol, addictions, and research and safety experts and groups.
Beer Canada and its member companies believe that these educational and targeted activities and programs are successful in increasing the awareness of responsible drinking and encouraging personal responsibility, as well as reducing the harmful use of alcohol.
In April 2007, the National Alcohol Strategy Working Group, consisting of representatives from the federal and provincial/territorial governments, addictions’ agencies, academia, non-government organizations, liquor boards and the beverage alcohol industry, released the National Alcohol Strategy, “Reducing Alcohol Related Harm in Canada: Toward a Culture of Moderation, Recommendations for a National Alcohol Strategy”.
The NAS is a landmark initiative with the specific goal of achieving and maintaining a culture of moderation in Canada. Crucial to this culture of moderation is the recognition of the value of sensible and healthy drinking while seeking to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.
Beer Canada supports the NAS in principle, and is a respected and fully engaged member of the National Alcohol Strategy Advisory Committee (NASAC) which is overseeing the implementation of the Strategy.
Beer Canada supports and endorses Canada’s first-ever national Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines, recommendation #1 of the National Alcohol Strategy. The Guidelines provide Canadians with constructive and useful advice on what constitutes healthy and safe drinking, while warning about the risks of exceeding safe drinking limits. In this respect the Guidelines can reinforce positive and healthy drinking behaviour.
Many other factors apart from advertising and marketing influences attitudes and drinking behaviours, and it is well known that principal influences on youth drinking are parents and peers. The balance of evidence does not support a direct causal relationship between overall drinking levels or harmful drinking patterns and advertising or marketing. Advertising moves consumption between brands, but does not increase overall consumption levels.
Beer Canada members do not sell or advertise their products to minors, and comply with federal and provincial/territorial rules and regulations which have provisions to protect minors. Broadcast advertising for beverage alcohol must adhere to a code put in place by the CRTC. Research shows that increased restrictions on alcohol advertising, as well as outright bans are ineffective.
The brewing industry supports the federal government decision to end preclearance of beverage alcohol broadcast advertising by a government agency and the subsequent decision to set up a review system through Advertising Standards Canada. Brewers favour moving provincial approvals for advertising to the ASC, thus ending the current requirement for approvals by two levels of government.
The brewing industry abides by federal and provincial advertising regulations on the use of motor vehicles in brand advertising. With respect to motorsports, the industry believes there is no connection between drinking at harmful levels and motorsports.
Lifestyle advertising is used in the marketing of industry products. Such advertising is used to promote most products and, in the case of brewers, is directed at an audience above the legal drinking age. There is no link between the use of such advertising and misuse of alcohol.
The problems of alcohol misuse are best dealt with through a broad-based approach that includes targeted initiatives, such as partnerships with other professional groups, in addition to media messaging. A single regulatory solution that consolidates all efforts into an advertising program of educational messages, as is suggested from time to time, is not as effective.
Our message is clear: “Don’t Drink and Drive”. For over the past three decades, Beer Canada and its member companies have developed and implemented effective Public Service Advertising (PSA) campaigns and partnership programs with traffic and safety experts in an effort to ensure the responsible consumption of alcohol and a reduction in the incidents of impaired driving. Radio, print and television advertisements are commonplace in Canadian media and on various private and public websites.
Beer Canada’s recent effort is the Change the Conversation PSA campaign, developed with the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, Student Life Education Company and “arrive alive DRIVE SOBER”. The campaign severs as a information resource that communities, educators and parents can rely upon to raise awareness about the problem and how it can be addressed.
Brewers in Canada are concerned with the harmful use of alcohol and impaired driving in society. From time to time suggestions arise to amend the federal Criminal Code in order to reduce the legal blood alcohol limit to .05 from .08, thereby criminalizing the social drinker. In addition to creating a burden on an already overextended court system, a lower federal legal limit will not address the problem of the hard core drinking driver and repeat offender, who according to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), account for most of the alcohol-related driving fatalities, and who are already ignoring the law and not likely to respond to a lower blood alcohol limit.
Beer Canada is supportive of any effective measure to prevent and reduce instances of drunk driving. Experts indicate that RBTs can be an effective measure, provided that appropriate resources are committed. We also believe that efforts should be concentrated on the repeat and hard core drinking driver who account for most of the drinking driving fatalities, who continue to re-offend, and who routinely have blood alcohol levels of double the legal limit or more.
FASD is an umbrella term used to describe the range of harm that may result from prenatal exposure to alcohol.
The industry believes any woman who finds she is pregnant, or is planning to start a family, should consult her physician on all matters of health and nutrition, including the consumption of alcohol. The industry believes the prudent choice for women is not to drink during pregnancy. The brewers support targeted programs for those at risk as the most effective intervention, particularly when delivered through the medical community.
For the past two decades, the Beer Canada and its members have been associated with some of Canada's top experts to deliver programs, raise awareness and support research on FASD. These long standing contributions have been part of the national efforts that have contributed to an increased awareness among Canadian women of the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
In Alberta, Quebec and Manitoba, the legal purchase age, most often referred to as the legal drinking age, is 18. In all other provinces and in the three territories, it is 19. Despite the lack of conclusive evidence, from time to time suggestions arise to increase the legal age to 21. Not only would such a change be ineffective in reducing harmful consumption among young adults, it would also lead to the consumption of alcohol in unregulated and supervised environments by those of current legal purchase age but under age 21.
It is also unfair to say 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds are too immature to drink responsibly, while they engage in activities requiring equal or more maturity, such as driving, marriage, voting, signing contracts and jury duty, or serving in the armed forces.
Efforts to raise awareness and to change attitudes and behaviours should be at the centre of a continuing strategy to educate young adults about the realities of alcohol. This will reduce all problems related to harmful consumption, including underage drinking.
Beer Canada endorses and supports the WHO Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol (Global Alcohol Strategy) approved by Member States, including Canada, at the World Health Assembly in May 2010. The Global Alcohol Strategy provides the foundation and the basis for international and pan-regional approaches to addressing alcohol-related harms and as well as non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
At the global and the pan-regional (Americas) levels, NCD action plans and strategies developed must recognize and align with the Global Alcohol Strategy. In this respect, in order to adequately address alcohol-related harm, the focus must be on the reduction of the harmful use of alcohol, rather than on reducing alcohol consumption per se, and and on targeted interventions and education, as opposed to ineffective “best buy” measures like higher taxes and advertising bans or increased advertising restrictions. The Global Alcohol Strategy recognizes that “one size does not fit all, and that national context is a determining factor in choosing optimal policy measures and interventions.
The industry recognizes and supports the right of the provinces and the territories to establish and maintain social reference or minimum prices on beverage alcohol for social policy reasons.
Beer produced in Canada is among the most highly taxed in the world. In fact, among all countries, only Norway levies higher taxes on beer than Canada. On average, the tax on a case of Canadian beer is 50% of the retail price. Beer Canada is opposed to any increases in excise taxation or the indexation of those taxes.
Beer Canada member companies support the progressive excise schedule introduced by the Federal Government in 2006. The schedule recognizes the scale differences between small and large brewing companies.
The industry supports shipment for consumption or sale as the most appropriate point of levy for excise duty calculation. This imposition point eliminates competitive distortions between domestic and imported beer and between beer and other alcoholic beverages.
The Canadian brewing industry has an excellent environmental record based on a comprehensive and successful packaging reuse and recycling program, a range of activities dedicated to reducing energy use, major reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the past two decades, and efficient stewardship of water resources.
The protection of the environment has always come naturally to brewers, since we rely on a clean environment to produce the best product. Brewers are proud of their environmental record, and assume complete responsibility for the end of life management of all its products, a level of environmental commitment unmatched by any other Canadian industry.
Beer Canada opposes mandatory ingredient labelling of beer because: no health or safety issue has been identified, and labels are ineffective since the ingredients are transformed as part of the brewing process.
The alternative approach taken by the industry makes information on ingredients available through a number of sources, including: the Food and Drug Regulations where all ingredients, additives and processing aids that may be used in the manufacture of beer are disclosed; provincial/territorial liquor boards; individual brewers who committed to government to respond to legitimate consumer inquiries on ingredients; Beer Canada which makes a list of ingredients actually in use by the industry available to the public.
Canadian beer is made with agricultural products such as barley, wheat, corn and hops and only with ingredients approved for use by Health Canada. Genetically modified corn varieties are approved for use and are widely available. As a result, grain handlers do not guarantee the absence of GM corn from their main supply lines.
The industry has developed a working guide to preparing a customized program of hazard analysis and identification of critical control points (HACCP) for brewers to ensure that government inspections are carried out on a consistent basis between plants and companies.
The industry has developed a “Good Manufacturing Practice on the Prevention of Glass Inclusion in Finished Product” and is committed to adhering to the practices outlined in the document.
The industry supports Canadian government initiatives to remove tax and other barriers to trade which discriminate against Canadian imports.
Brewers believe that the removal of interprovincial barriers to trade is essential to improve the international competitiveness of Canadian brewers.